Tuesday, September 15, 2015

NW Day 16, Friday: Lovely Last Day

We got up and out of the room by 8:30. We stopped at the general store for sandwiches for lunch, and then drove on to Old Faithful. The road between Grant Village and the Upper Geyser Basin wound back and forth over the Continental Divide. I think we “crossed” the Continental Divide three times. No joke.

We pulled in to the parking lot at Old Faithful just in time to see the plumes of the geyser over the roofs of the buildings. Too late for the geyser.

Not too late for the bison. This, folks, is not a statue.

At first I was pretty bummed that we had just missed Old Faithful, especially since the next eruption wasn’t expected till 11:26. But we went up and asked the ranger what he’d recommend. We were right next to a nice loop around the upper geyser basin, but if there were no geysers erupting, I was afraid that walk would just be a boring boardwalk in the hot sun with some holes in the ground that were steaming a bit. That would not be a win in the eyes of the family. The ranger said that Grand Geyser is one of the tallest in the world of predictable geysers. It was predicted to erupt at 8:30 that morning, but it hadn’t erupted yet. He said that meant it could go at any time, and since it was a little late, it would probably be a good eruption when it went. He said the walk up to Grand Geyser was just a 12 to 15 walk past up a paved bicycle path and then turn onto the boardwalk at Castle Geyser…

And take the bridge over, the Firewater Stream? River? 

And up to Grand Geyser, which started erupting JUST as we got to it.

We stayed and watched the spectacular ten minute display.

Then we walked along the boardwalk along the Upper Geyser Basin. 
We dallied a little taking pictures. And then realized that maybe we had dallied a little too much and might be risking missing the next eruption of Old Faithful. So we sprinted the last few hundred yards of the path. (At 7000 feet in altitude, but it was mostly downhill.)

We found a nice spot to watch Old Faithful on the far side of the crowds. 
It erupted at 11:25.  Pretty much right on schedule.

So, by just missing its earlier eruption, we got to see two AMAZING geysers erupt. (And the general consensus among the four of us was that the Grand Geyser was even more impressive than Old Faithful.)

Our next stop was the Midway Geyser Basin, which also empties into the Firewater River.
 Excelsior Geyser pours 4000 gallons of water a minute into the Firewater.

Impressive as this is, the main reason we stopped here was to see The Grand Prismatic Spring. Ground photos don’t do it justice.

We saw people on a path going to a hillside overlook on the far side of the spring, but it seemed a not-insignificant hike to get around over there. Next time, maybe.

There was LOTS of stuff to get out and walk around and see in the geyser area of Yellowstone. But, we wanted to make it all the way up to Mammoth Springs, have time to walk around that area, eat dinner up there AND drive back south to Grant Village before dark. So, we drove straight through to Mammoth. 

Or, we tried to drive straight through to Mammoth. There was a bison on the road clogging up traffic. 

When we got closer, we saw that he was lame. We wanted to report that, in case the rangers kept track of those things, but we didn’t have any cell signal at that point. We saw a ranger at the next turn off, and we pulled in to tell him about the bison. (He said they did know, and thanked us. He also told us that bison can’t see directly in front of them. Their eyes are so far to the sides of their heads to watch for wolves and other predators on their flanks that it creates a blind spot directly in front of them. He said if you watch a bison walk, they also swing their heads from side to side as they move. He said they do that because they need each eye to be able to get a view of what’s coming up directly in front of them. He also said that their heads are super heavy compared to their bodies.)

And while we were there we took some pictures from Gibbon Falls.

I loved the hot springs of Mammoth. I loved the colors. I loved the flowing shapes. 

Here's a backlit photo just for a sense of scale--
 It was like walking around a series of giant sculpted fountains.

Sweetling thought it was like walking above a giant ice cream sundae with caramel sauce flowing down it.

 The elk love it too.

I don’t even remember what we ate at the little café for dinner. But I do remember that if we took our café receipt over to the nearby lodge gift shop, we could purchase a Yellowstone blanket for $14. Guess who’s coming home with a Yellowstone blanket?

We had encountered a LONG construction delay on the road between Norris and Mammoth, and rather than drive back through that we decided to take the northern most edge of the Grand Loop, and then drive back to Grant along the east side of the park.

That was nice in that we got to see a stretch of the park we wouldn’t have otherwise. 

And, the color of the evening sun on the hills was just so lovely.

A lovely end to our last full day in the park.

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